Ceuta migrant crisis – Heartbreaking images show boy in tears as he makes perilous journey to border from Morocco

HEARTBREAKING images show a young boy sobbing as he makes the perilous journey to Ceuta's shores from Morocco wearing a homemade life jacket.

The child was one of hundreds of unaccompanied minors who made their way to the Spanish territory in north Africa.

He swam to the border wearing a life jacket made from empty water bottles and was met by Spanish military when he hit dry land.

The youngster sobbed and sat on the beach as authorities tried to move him.

Around two-thirds of the 8,000 migrants who made it to Ceutahave been expelled by Spanish authorities – but many said they would try again to reach Europe.

Yousef, 16, was one of the youngsters who had joined the wave of 8,000 fellow Moroccans who swam to enter Spain's north African enclave.

“There is nothing in Morocco, zero, no jobs, no hope.”

"I wanted to see what it was like. Maybe to get some work," he told The Times.

He had set off after he heard on social media that Moroccan police would not stop people from trying to enter Ceuta.

He and a group of friends entered twice in two days after being ejected by Spanish soldiers.

Some of the migrants that made it to Ceuta were as young as seven and had travelled alone, said Spain's Social Rights Minister lone Belarre.

Young men were seen swimming towards Ceuta's beach and were met by the army as they reached the shore.

Around 1,500 underage migrants are now in reception centres in Ceuta from this recent attempt and from previous surges.

On Monday a rush of migrants began when Morocco appeared to loosen border controls – a move widely interpreted as retaliation for Spain's hosting of a Western Sahara independence leader.

Thousands gathered in the Moroccan border, near the frontier with Ceuta, as they clashed after dark with Moroccan riot police, throwing stones and setting on fire a motorbike and a rubbish bin, a Reuters witness said.

Unaccompanied children are among the 5,000 migrants who made it to Ceuta but were turned away by Spanish authorities.

On the northern tip of Morocco across from Gibraltar and with a population of 80,000, the enclave has periodically been a magnet for refugees seeking a quick way into Europe.

But Rabat has cracked down on border traffic in recent years.

"I am not losing hope. I have friends in Ceuta where I can stay till I get a chance to cross to Spain," Souhail Abbadi, a man in his 20s from Tangier in northwest Morocco, told Reuters.

Earlier, Spanish police and soldiers escorted long lines of Moroccans and other mainly sub-Saharan Africans through a gate back into Morocco.

"We were given juice and a cake, that is all," said Mohamed, from Ait Melloul in southwest Morocco, after Spanish soldiers sent him back as soon as he arrived.

He and many other returnees gathered in Fnideq, where they said they were receiving no aid.

Morocco's minister of state for human rights, El Mustapha Ramid, suggested late on Tuesday that Rabat was justified in relaxing border controls after Polisario Front rebel leader Brahim Ghali entered Spain.

"What did Spain expect from Morocco, which sees its neighbour hosting the head of a group that took up arms against the kingdom?" he wrote in a Facebook post.

Madrid said it had made a humanitarian decision to allow in Ghali, whose movement seeks independence for Moroccan-run Western Sahara.

Spain's Guardia Civil posted a picture of an officer rescuing a migrant baby from the water off the shore of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

‘Scared’ Spanish locals have locked themselves indoors and Covid jabs have been suspended as the army rounds up migrants desperately fleeing Morocco.

Worried officials in Brussels have urged Morocco to stop the flow of people into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta after 6,000 crossed into it.

Thousands of Moroccans have been taking advantage of relaxed border controls in their nation to swim or paddle in inflatable boats onto European soil.

About 5,000 reached Ceuta after swimming round a border fence – with one found dead – after many used inflatable rings and rubber dinghies, authorities said.

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